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This month teachers all over the country are conducting end of year assessments, preparing for progress reports and report cards, and entering data points on more formal, summative assessments. It is important to know how children have progressed, where they are in their learning trajectories, and how they are doing overall. This makes me think about, as educators:
Who are we accountable to in our work?
Metrics take many forms and we need a variety. Some metrics are personal and qualitative - they tell a story and make the nuances of learning visible.
Others are quantitative and allow us to quickly and easily see measures of particular elements of development and children's progress.
However, increasingly, we do our work in an atmosphere of "finish your peas before you have dessert". This climate permeates our schools, policies, and the statehouse.
"Enter your data points before we give you the money the children deserve."
"Finish your work before you can play."
The irony here is that dessert is often the healthy fruits of play and inquiry, and not just Twinkies.
I have written before about this false dichotomy between play and academics as have others. Lillian Katz recently asked us to stop thinking in terms of academics vs. play and focus on children's intellectual pursuits writ large. If we think in terms of intellectual goals, instead of purely academic goals, we might be able to turn the tables on this disconnect.
Do we need to assess children's development as they grow? Yes.
Our accountability is to children and families first and foremost.
And as educators, our accountability is also to ourselves and colleagues. We must continually ask ourselves:
What do we stand for?
What is our image of children and what do we know they can do?
What is our agreed upon stance to how we will support children in their work and play?
What is our philosophy about how children learn and how must that inform our teaching?
What do we teach and how?
How will we know that children are learning?
How will we share the evidence and stories about children's learning with each other, with families, and with children?
How will we share it with district administrators, our community at large, and to our policy makers?
We have some work to do, but let's make it visible to everyone and use this work to bring us together as a field. Early childhood education IS hard work and requires very specific skills and knowledge. The children are counting on us.
Who are you accountable to?